Monday, June 29, 2009

Car Ride Through the Grand Staircase

This video was filmed just after we had breakfast at Kiva's Koffeehouse in Utah. We were heading back down to where we had finished the day before and wanted to share the view with you all. Hope you like it!

(Note: Sorry that the music doesn't always come through. It was being played through the car speakers but when the camera was out the window it was obscured by the wind.)

Beautiful Riding, and lots of it

In the morning we drove a couple miles back up the road to Kiva’s Koffeehouse. The shop sits overlooking the staircase and serves coffee starting at 8:30. What better way to kick start the day? On the way back down to the starting point we filmed a quick video of the area that we hope to enjoy (check the newest entry). I taped Dave’s ankle, which he’d been resting and icing, and it felt good.

Dave and I at the top of the nameless 9,600 foot summit.

Today was another long day. The first 23 miles were all up hill and culminated in a 9,600 peak. From the top it was 18 miles downhill into Torrey where we broke for snacks. After some ice cream that was a little too good, our bikes were back on the road and we started pedaling. Caineville, our next stop, was 30 miles away. I was ready to put my head down and just do the work, but the Capitol Reef National Park had other plans.

As our descent from the mountain continued we plunged into the massive stone structures of the Capitol Reef National Park. Our route mirrored the Fremont River which cuts in and out of massive stone structures. Some were over 1,000 feet in height. As I zoomed along the road these monuments reminded me of massive medieval fortresses. The cast off boulders that littered the base of each looked like the remnants of a past era. Unfit for the majesty of the plateau, the boulders were thrown down, yet even in their lowliness they added a certain mystique to the overwhelming awe of the mountain from which it had fallen.

We reached Caineville around 6:15. The funny thing about Caineville is that is actually has nothing in it. With no place to sleep we were forced to move on to the next town, Hanksville, 19 miles up the road. This time there were no sites to draw my attention away from the task at hand; I put my head down, shut off my brain, and rolled into Hanksville around 7.

It’s now the late evening and we are all exhausted. Fortunately, tomorrow is only a 50 mile ride (thanks to the 19 miles we cut out from Caineville to Hanksville). We’ll be at the Hite Recreation Area next to Lake Powell for two days. The rest day is much needed, and will hopefully be filled with hiking, swimming, and kayaking. But now it’s time for a shower (we’ve been without showers for three days and smell pretty gross) and a good night’s sleep. Thanks for reading!

Not Our Greatest Day...until the end!

The following day was not the best of the ride. Seven miles in Dave and I pulled over into a rest stop. Dave’s Achilles heel was hurting him a lot and had been getting progressively worse over the past four days. We concluded that rest was the best option so a phone call to Lauren brought the Sprinter to Dave and I continued on alone. The next 8 miles were pretty tough. There was a steady grade and my legs hadn’t quite recovered from the climb out of Cedar City. Eight miles in though I managed to generate some good foot speed, shifted up gears, and hit a groove all the way to the 7,777 foot summit. The rest of the 20 miles to our first meeting point were downhill or relatively flat and I cruised.

After a quick break, Lauren decided to join me on the second leg of the trip. It was supposed to be a 31-miler with a 1,500 gradual gain, so we felt pretty good for the first 8 miles. All of a sudden, we turned a corner and saw a winding road as steep as anything I’d climbed before. 1 mile (and a lot of time) later, we reached the top and rolled on down into Escalante.

Just to throw another loop into our plans, everything in Escalante was closed. With no place to stay I jumped back on my bike and started to pedal the 14 miles to the next nearest campground, a little station next to the Escalante River. This turned out to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dim day.

A small climb brought us to the an overlook of the Grand Staircase National Monument. In the 1880’s the geoligist Captain Clarence E Dutton referred to the region as “a grand staircase of sequential cliffs and terraces” and the name stuck. It is an impressive sight to behold. Mountains, valleys, canyons, cliffs, and plains all blend together making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. The colors- greens, oranges, and reds- can’t be found anywhere else in the world. After whipping my bike, probably a little too fast (sorry Mom!), around the downhill corners into the canyon I met the Sprinter at the campground.

The campground, as aforementioned, is next to the Escalante River. The river gently flows in and out of the red rock which surrounds in. Dave, Lauren, and I happily jumped in and followed the water upstream. It was a refreshing end to a long day and all our spirits were raised.

The Big Climb: Cedar City to Panguitch

Once again a lack of access to the internet has forced me to lump together multiple days of riding… and what a three days to lump together! We got up around 6:30 on Saturday, packed our things, and headed over to Cedar Cycles to meet up with some local cyclists. Two days before, when getting some gear for our bikes at the shop, we were invited by some locals to join them on Saturday. They were planning on doing the same ride as us.

The invitation was very welcome. Since mapping out the trip, Dave and I referred to this mountain as “THE BIG CLIMB”. Starting around 6,000 feet, the road follows Cedar Canyon for 17 miles or so and climbs all the way up to 9,900. On our elevation charts it was a daunting figure indeed.

We got to the shop, pumped our tires, and headed over to the group gathered by the door. Waiting for us were three members of the Color Country Cycling Club: Tim, whom we’d met at the shop, Craig, and Chanda. After introductions were made we hit the road and started the climb.

To make a long story short, it was a long, difficult climb. Tim’s computer registered the grade at 16% at one point (it felt like 45% in my legs!). But what a view! About 2 miles from the top there was an overlook of Zion National Park which boasts a marvelous canyon. I glanced over my shoulder as I passed, but didn’t stop; Craig had made a big push a couple miles back and I was, unsuccessfully, trying to catch him.

At the top we gathered for some photos (Craig was long gone by this point so we have no photographic documentation on him….what a climber!). Here’s one of me, Chanda, and Tim.

Dave, Lauren, and I took a break before getting back on the road. We turned off the main road and rode up through the Cedar Breaks National Monument. I might sound like a broken record (it’s been a long day), but what a view! The climb up to there took us up to 10,400+ feet, by far our highest elevation of the trip so far. We’ve got some documention of the elevation just before the top:

Dave and I strolled about the upper edges of the canyon for 30 minutes or so before continuing onward. Thankfully, our stop was only 30 miles away, and all downhill! We coasted into Panguitch around 1:00 PM. Little did we know that serendipity would have us pass through this town of little more than 1,000 on the biggest night of the year.

Panguitch hosts an annual hot air balloon show and it so happened that it was to take place the very evening we were there. Main St. was shut down and massive balloons were brought in. As the light faded over the western hills the operators unleashed their propane tanks into the balloons, whose lights reflected off the buildings on the street. They were, essentially, gigantic lanterns providing light for the town.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday DAD!

Some Old Photos

We haven't uploaded our most recent photos yet, but I wanted to share with you a "greatest hits" of the first couple days. Here we go!

Dave and I atop Carson Pass, 8,574 feet above sea level. Dave was excited to be there.

Here we are posing with the Push America guys on the way up to Carson Pass. It's a very cool organization that raises money for people living with disabilities. This year they have over 60 guys riding and raise $500,000! Just a good group of some really cool guys.

This is in Carmichael, CA. We stayed with the Lilley family and Charlie, our teammate on the crew team, rode with us the next day. Such a great family and a wonderful evening.

This photo is the subject of lots of controversy. As you can probably see, we are on a ferry across the San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. The maps we got for the ride told us to do this: it is a great symbolic way (watching at San Francisco fades away into the distance) to kick off the ride! Still some people (ahem, my sister Tess, ahem) have called this "cheating". Well the country is 2,700 miles across and we are biking 4,500 so I don't feel too bad. I think it's a really cool shot.

Here we are at the Oval just before kicking of the ride. We barely knew what we were getting ourselves into.... and we love it!

Welcome to Utah!

The ride from Ely to Baker had its challenges. We encountered three peaks, and while the slope was gradual, 7+ miles of climbing even a medium grade is very tiring. Luckily the road mostly coasted into Baker, our last town in Nevada.

Baker is located five miles from the Utah border, smack in the middle of the Great Basin National Park. Overlooking the town is the massive Wheeler Peak. Standing at over 13,000 feet the mountain was the most impressive peak we've seen so far. Baker rests at 5,000 feet, but we heard there was some great hiking up near the peak. So after hopping off our bikes and into the car, we drove up to around 10,000 feet and went on a 3 mile hike.

The route we chose took us up to a grove of bristlecone pines, the oldest living beings on the planet. These trees can live up to 5,000 years old and are incredibly resilient in adverse conditions. The info tour described them as "grotesquely beautiful" and the description was certainly appropriate; these pines looked like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe poem.

We drove back down the mountain to Baker and set up camp. A meal and a couple of card games later, we turned in for the night. The next morning we rose early and broke camp. We had a busy day ahead of us! Before setting out for Milford, UT (and a time zone change!) we went over to the Lehman Caves for the 8:30, hour long tour. The Lehman Caves are a series of massive limestone structures buried in the hillside just outside of Baker. We all agreed that our favorite part of the trip was when the artificial lights were extinguished and the group was left in complete darkness. Then a candle was lit to show how the caves were viewed at the turn of the 19th century. Believe me, it was eerie. I was sad to have the lights turned back on.

The ride to Milford was tough. The part of Utah which our route took us through was barren. Some locals in Milford would later describe it as a "wasteland". A stiff headwind didn't help our efforts. Over the past two weeks I've realized that although a headwind does zap your energy, it is the loss of will that is most difficult to overcome. We broke up the ride into three segments and were happy to finally reach Milford.

Having no place to stay in Milford, we wandered around town looking for a church. We'd heard from other bikers that churches are generally welcoming to cross-country fundraisers, so we hoped to find one that would allow us to curl up in a corner for a night. What we got was even better.

At the entrance to town we spotted a steeple and headed in its direction. The door to the church was open and we filed on into the dark hallways trying to find someone. Eventually we found a group of three or so people, introduced ourselves, and made our request. Turns out we ended up addressing the Bishop Larry Barnes! The bishop was extremely accommodating and directed us to the lone hotel in town. His niece, Janet Russell, was the general manager there and would surely put us up for the evening. Ecstatic, we thanked him repeatedly and headed to the hotel.

Sure enough, Ms. Russell put us up for the evening and even put breakfast on the house for us the next morning! This is another extraordinary example of the generosity that people have shown us on this trip. Our sincere and heart felt thanks go out to both Bishop Barnes and Janet Russell for their kind support of our trip!

In the morning, after our breakfast and thanking Ms. Russell, we started out for Cedar City, UT. This was our last day before getting a rest day and with a distance on 56 miles, it shouldn't be too bad of a ride we thought. How wrong we were. The entire day we were blasted with headwinds of up to 30 mph, some rain, and general fatigue from a long week of biking. Getting a flat tire 25 miles outside of town wasn't a pleasant experience either. Needless to say, we were thrilled to finally reach town.

After a quick tune up and a few purchases at Cedar Cycles we met up with Theresa Reddy, our host for the next day and a half. We contacted Theresa through, a very cool site if you aren't familiar with it. Theresa is wonderful and we had a great time hanging out with her lat night. Today we slept in for the first time in a while and then got to doing some errands. Laundry was high on the list and I am pleased to say it is currently in the dryer (this is a major accomplishment for us). The car is also clean and Dave and Lauren are out gathering up supplies for the next couple of weeks. We'll probably grab lunch at some point and see a movie later tonight.

Tomorrow we set out for Panguitch, UT. It's a short ride (58 miles), but we hit a BIG mountain. The highest we've climbed so far was just over 8,500 but tomorrow we get all the way up to 10,500! The climb starts right as we leave Cedar City, but after getting it out of the way we should be able to zoom on down into Panguitch. Should be a fun day! Over the next 10 days we have 2 rests days: four biking days, one rest day, four more biking days, and another rest day. We're going to spend those rest days in some gorgeous national parks and we are all looking forward to some fun hiking, swimming, and kayaking!

As always, thanks for reading and I will keep updating as our access to the Internet allows. Thanks!

Answer to the last Trivia Question: Mama Katele. Mama Katele was the outspoken AIDS activist in a refugee camp inZambia that so influenced the founders of Face AIDS. Just after their return to the US, the three students received word that Mama Katele had passed away.They channelled their grief and outrage into the formation of Face AIDS and we try to continue their work today! (10 points to Matty Pru!)
Today's Trivia Question: What is the state emblem of Utah? (10 points)

BONUS QUESTION: What is the state fossil of Utah? (5 points)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mild and green and squeaky clean

Sorry for not blogging yesterday, but we didn't have an Internet connection so I was grounded. We left the Bob Scott Campground early and headed back into Austin to start the morning. As we were getting ready to shove off a motorcyclist stopped us and warned us to be careful as we climbed out of the town; a cyclist had been hit 4 miles up the road just moments before. Shaken, Dave and I set out and proceeded with caution.

After getting to the top of Austin Summit we slowly rolled down the back side of the mountain. About half way down we came across an ambulance and a man being attended to on the side of the road. We were told that he had been riding, a car clipped him with its mirror, and ran. The sight hit Dave and I both a little too close to home and served as a reminder that we need to be extra careful on roads with blind corners where drivers might not be paying as much attention as they should. Our thoughts go out to the injured cyclist- here's to a speedy recovery.

The rest of the day passed without much fanfare. We narrowly avoided rainfall coming down our second peak and then booked it across the valley. Ten miles to go brought a little bit of "fun". There were lightning strikes off in the distance as we approached Eureka. The clouds seemed to be pushing away from the town, but we still proceeded very carefully. With three miles to go we hit a steep hill, were blasted with a halting headwind, met some pouring rain, and were blinded with hail! Luckily, it lasted only two or three minutes and we cruised into town safely. The Best Western was our home for the evening; no campgrounds were around and with storms in the area we thought it best to find some good shelter.

Eureka is a quaint little town known as "The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road". After showering and enjoying the complimentary hot tub at the Best Western (SCORE!), Dave, Lauren, and I strolled around town. Eureka has a famous red brick opera house on its main street which we checked out. It was closed but in the morning we stopped by to check it out. As it was the summer solstice we hiked up to a hill behind the high school and watched the sun set. It was a surreal experience to watch the sun fade behind the mountains we had just left and to think about all the miles we had crossed. We returned to the hotel and fell into a deep, well deserved sleep.

This morning we got a good start on the way to Ely. It was a 77 mile trek with 4 peaks/passes, so it was time to bring back our climbing legs. The first three peaks were in the first 34 miles so our fresh legs managed to carry us pretty far. For those of you who have never been to Nevada, it goes a little something like this: ^_^_^_^_^_ where the carrots are mountains and the underscores are valleys. A crude diagram, I admit, but it sums up the state pretty well. After each climb we were greeted with 5-6 miles of smooth sailing down hill, 10 flat miles across the valley, and then another mountain. The predictability is nice and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

We arrived in Ely around 4:30. With a population of 4,000, it is easily the largest town we've seen since Fallon (8,000) and is a nice breath of fresh air. Currently we are (surprise, surprise) sitting at a picnic table at our campground having a meal.

Overall the riding has been great so far. The past couple of days have reminded me of a lyric from the U2 song "Zooropa" which serves as the title for this entry. The miles have been mild since Carson's Pass, Nevada is surprisingly green, and most of the campgrounds have boasted showers! The last verse to the song also speaks to the heart of our ride, so if you will permit to get a little preachy, the lines run:

"She's gonna dream up
The world she wants to live in
She's gonna dream out loud
She's gonna dream out loud"

A lot of people ask us why we've chosen to ride across the country as a way to raise awareness. My answer has been three-fold: 1) it's a personal challenge 2) the seeming insanity of riding across the continent attracts a lot of a attention and opens up people to hearing our message and 3) taking our message out to people reaches more people than if we tried to raise awareness in our own circles.

Part of this goal is to show the people we meet that students can make a difference. All too often students can be overwhelmed the gigantic issues that we face today: global warming, nuclear proliferation, poverty, AIDS, etc. But getting involved in any way makes a significant difference. By working now we can start to form the world we want to see. For Dave, Lauren, and I, this ride is a way of "dreaming out loud" as Bono so elegantly states it. We hope it leaves that impression on others.

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Nevada. Surprise, surprise! Everyone we met in Fallon made sure to let us know this fact. Needless to say, it made me a little bit nervous! Still, it hasn't been that bad so far.

Today's Trivia Question: Face AIDS was founded in 2005 after three students came back from working in a refugee camp in Zambia. There they met a woman who was HIV positive who was one of the few outspoken advocates of HIV testing. She is the inspiration for the Face AIDS movement. What is her name?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers' Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Loneliest Road in America

Thursday morning we awoke to a beautiful California day. Tahoe was good to us. My legs felt refreshed after a long hot tub session the night before and a good night's rest. Breakfast consisted of cereal, eggs, and OJ and we hopped into the cars to head back to Carson City to start our next leg. I rode with my uncle Bill while Dave and Lauren took the Sprinter. It was Uncle Bill that first got me interested in cycling, so I was more than pleased to have him join us on first half of the leg to Fallon.

The riding out of Carson City was easy. 35 miles disappeared in the blink of an eye and we found ourselves eating pizza at a small pizza joint in the middle of nowhere. After lunch, my uncle turned around and headed back to Carson City and Tahoe; I was sad to see him go, but excited to continue on the journey.

The last 26 miles in Fallon were just as easy, if not easier, than the first 35. We rolled into town and were greeted by Sue Sevon, our contact in the area. She had arranged for a photographer to take our picture as we rolled into town so that it would make the Friday edition of the paper.

After pictures and introductions, Sue brought us to the Wolf Center at the Epworth Methodist Church in Fallon. This was to be our home for the next two days and we settled right in, happy to have a day off and showers in the building. That evening we ate with the Fallon Daily Bread, a twice weekly food kitchen that feeds the Fallon community. Everyone was extremely welcoming and interested in our ride. We had great conversations with many of the locals including Ron Evans who made a generous contribution to our cause (thank you Ron!). We worked our way through the dishes to contribute our part and then settled in to our living space.

We spent the evening resting and watching "Top Gun". Turns out Fallon is home to a huge Naval Base and part of the filming of the movie took place there. Dave was outraged when I told him I had never seen the movie ("Austin, it's like the greatest movie of all time!") and a trip to Blockbuster was in order.

Friday, our first rest day of the trip, was an eventful and fun day! We started off with a wonderful breakfast prepared for us by Donna Strickland and her hospitality team (thank you! we loved it!!) before heading off to the KHWG radio station for our an interview with DJ Ladigo Travis. Ladigo (whose true identity shall remain hidden) interviewed us for a solid 45 minutes while letting us introduce songs ("Wish I Didn't Know" by Toby Keith was my selection) and giving us a chance to riff off each other. It was an extremely fun time and we will certainly be giving KHWG some call-in updates on our progress.

Sue took us around Fallon for the rest of the day until our meeting at 1:30 at Town Hall with Mayor Ken Tedford. In a very generous gesture, the Mayor presented us with large, gold medallions commemorating Fallon's centennial in recognition of our efforts. Dave, Lauren, and I were greatly honored and headed back to the Wolf Center with big smiles.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing (read: napping) before Sue took us out to wine tasting and dinner. All parties not of drinking age, so just me, were treated to a delicious bottle of Joe's Root Beer while everyone else sampled five very good- or so I'm told- wines. Dinner was lovely. We were joined by Sue's friend Kathie Slaughter and enjoyed a fantastic evening all around. Having said our goodbyes Dave, Lauren, and I returned to the Wolf Center for some much needed sleep.

This morning we were once again treated to a lovely breakfast courtesy of Donna Strickland and we hit the road at 8:30. For those of you unfamiliar with your Nevada geography, we are following Highway 50 across the state. In the 1950's a Life reporter famously called Highway 50 "the loneliest road in America" and with good cause! After leaving Fallon we had 115 miles ahead of us until our next town! Fortunately, Dave and I were met with a couple of good conditions. First, temperatures in Nevada are at a record low (mid 80's) so the sun was not too brutal. Secondly, we were graced with a tailwind that increased our base speed to as fast as 28 mph at times.

The prospect of riding across "the loneliest road in America" initially was not very appealing. Yet as soon as we left Fallon, all my reservations left. Simply put, Highway 50 is one of the most beautiful stretches of road I've been ever been on! The road climbs 2,400 feet from Fallon up into the mountains before tumbling back in a massive desert valley. The various types of rocks, formations, and wildlife make this road absolutely exquisite! The 115 miles when by in no time at all.

Now we are camping in a campground just east of Austin, NV and are cooking some hot dogs. The road climbs back up into the mountains after the town of Austin (Austin Pass is 7,400+ feet) so we are sitting at a picnic table staring off into the beautiful green hills of Nevada. Tomorrow we head out to Eureka, NV a 70-mile ride with some big climbs. After that we hit up Ely, NV and then spend one or two more nights in Nevada before passing into Utah.

The trip has been absolutely wonderful so far and I can barely believe a week has already passed! Before I know it, we'll be back in Boston so I'm trying to take everything in while I can. but now, there are some hot dogs calling my name so I must retire. Thanks for reading!

Answer to yesterday's Daily Trivia: The Mountain Democrat. The Lilley Family is in the lead with 10 points! Will anyone step up and challenge their lead for the Dave's affections?

Today's Daily Trivia Question: What is the most mountainous state in the continental US?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One down, fourteen to go

It's been a long two days so I am going to keep this blog short. Charlie joined us as we left his house and we jumped back on the path along the American River. 10 miles in we stopped at some rope swings on Lake Natoma. Having rowed by there many times and watching enviously as kids jumpin, we felt we had to stop and partake in the fun. 45 minutes later we were dry and back on the road.

After 20 or so miles we parted ways with Charlie and continued on up into the hills. At Placerville, 2,000 feet above sea level, we met with a reporter and took some photos. We're hoping to find and post the article soon. We continued on and climbed all the way up to Cooks Station at an elevation on 5,000. With the ups and downs in the roads we climbed nearly 6,500 feet and were very happy to see Lauren and the support car.

We spent the night at Pipi Campground in El Dorado National Forest. Pitching the tent at the end of such a long day was a hassle, but was worth the effort as we all slept 10+ hours. We woke up today and headed back up the mountain. Along the way we ran into multiple cars and riders with the Push America organization. Push America is a cross-country ride that raises funds for people living with disabilities. Along the way they stop at various centers and have friendship visits. It is a fantastic organization full of wonderful guys and we were very happy to cross paths with them.

After several breaks we continued up to Carson's Pass, our first peak. It was 8,574 feet up and I was pumped to see the sign. We took some pictures before continuing on. The road dove downhill, weaving in and out of the mountains. It was a beautiful and refreshing ride. A few miles after we leveled out at 4,000 feet we crossed into Nevada, our first state border! 26 miles later we were in Carson City and done for the day.

We are currently staying in Kings Beach, CA with my extended family. All my mother's siblings and their families are renting a house up here and we are very happy to be staying with them. Tomorrow we get back on the road and head to Fallon, NV. It's only 61 miles and Friday is a rest day, so we get a chance to get our legs back under us after two days of hard climbing. Can't wait to rest (it gives me more time to blog!).

Answer to yesterday's daily trivia question: Finnegan's Wake

Today's Trivia Question: What is California's oldest, still operating newspaper?

Monday, June 15, 2009

riverrun past Charlie Lilley's...

The summer after my senior year of high school I received an email from Pete Giese, the freshman rowing coach. He told me that in order to "hit the ground running" in the fall I should do 60-90 minutes a day of cardio with my heart rate in the 120-150 range. That very day I laced up my running shoes, headed out the door, and proceeded to run for 65 minutes. The next morning, upon rolling out of bed, I nearly collapsed from the searing pain in my quads. Still I got out on the road and ran for another 60 minutes, albeit much slower. Each step felt like knives were being thrust into my legs, but I stuck it out and over the course of the summer worked my way up to a solid 13 mile run.

It was with this, um, fond memory in mind that fell asleep last night. The last time I rode my bike before yesterday was May 24, ages ago! I feared I would awake with leg cramps, hobble over to my bike, ride for 65 miles, and arrive in Carmichael around midnight.

Fortunately, my legs felt great. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but another 65 miles was certainly doable. After the best breakfast I've had in a while (2 pancakes, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and a steak) the team waved goodbye to Barbara and hit the road. The first part of our trek was smooth sailing. Dave and I weaved in and out of the California golden hills, practically alone on the country roads.

We stopped in Davis, a good 35 miles from Fairfield, and met up with Lauren for snacks from the van. After about an hour Dave and I jumped back on the bikes and headed towards Carmichael by way of Sacramento. The bike path we took ran us parallel to the I-80 and the headwind from the oncoming traffic created greatly slowed our process. The after-lunch sleepiness started to kick in and I was delighted when Sacramento finally came into view.

After crossing the American River, we picked up a bike path that goes all the way out to Folsom. The path follows the river and makes for a beautiful, car-free ride. Around 4 PM we rolled into Carmichael to the house of Charlie Lilley. Charlie is our good friend, teammate, and as of yesterday a Stanford graduate! We enjoyed a wonderful evening of food, stories, and laughs with his parents and sister, Laura, and have just sat down to relax before heading to bed.

Tomorrow is a big day in the Ride Against AIDS. The road since Palo Alto has been relatively flat but 15 miles into our ride tomorrow we hit elevation. The road rises and falls (but mostly rises) all the way up to Carson Pass which is over 8,500 feet above sea level. Tomorrow we will take try to take out between 5,000 and 7,000 of those feet. It will be, most likely, the hardest day of the summer because we haven't totally adjusted to riding yet and because it will be the most elevation we will encounter in a day.

The story with which I opened this entry was actually incomplete. As hard as the 2nd day was, the 3rd day was worse and still ranks as #3 on my list of worst physical experiences of my life (racing up Half Dome and the Petite Finals of the IRAs this year are #1 and #2, respectively). I can only hope that the 3rd day of the ride is not as bad as the 3rd day of running.

In closing, today marks the beginning of the "Ride Against AIDS Trivia Game"! I'll include various questions with point values throughout the blog. The first to answer the question correctly received the points and the overall winner at the end of the summer gets a Face AIDS DVD and a kiss from Dave. (Note: you do not have to receive the kiss if you do not want. It's totally mandatory). Daily winners will receive a Face AIDS pin. Anyways, here is the first question:

What is the title of this blog entry a reference to? (10 points) Anyone named Matt Keeley is not eligible to answer this question.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Ride is Underway!

As our dear, loving, and extensive audience is aware of, the ride started today! We met at a quarter to nine in the Oval, took some photos, and then headed out on the road. Dave and I were joined by Lauren and Dave's brother Nate for the leg up to San Francisco. We encounteredour first road bump 15 miles in when Nate was sidelined with a flat tire. A quick tube change later we were back on the road and on the way to San Francisco.

Once in the city we gathered at the Ferry Building. Dave and I bought tickets to take the ferry to Vallejo while Lauren grabbed the car and headed across the Bay. I was very excited to see the Richer family, albeit for only a few minutes, before jumping on the boat.

Now, I just want to say one word about the ferry. Some people have called it "cheating" or insinuated that we weren't really biking across the country. Initially, these naysayers got to me. Then I remembered I'm biking 4,500 miles- that's 50% more than the width of the country- in less than two months and I feel better. You know who you are.

Getting back on track, Dave, Lauren, and I lunched in the car with the food we bought at Costco. After a particularly gooey PB&J Dave and I hit the road again to Fairfield. The 30 miles went great, but the extra 5 we tacked on because we got lost weren't all that great. Still when we did find our final destination we were greeted by an extremely friendly and welcoming host. Barbara Cruz is the mother of a Stanford alum and graciously opened her home to us. We are currently chilling in her living room watching the NBA Finals (why are the Magic terrible?) after having had a delicious pasta dinner.

I'm pretty tired but am looking forward to tomorrow. We're heading to Carmichael, CA to stay with our good friend and teammate Charlie Lilley (shoutout to Charlie for graduating today. Congrats!). But right now I'm thinking about heading to bed. Thanks for reading, and come back for more tomorrow!

Friday, June 12, 2009

5, 4, 3, 2, 1.....

In less than 48 hours, the 2009 Ride Against AIDS will be underway! Pretty crazy to think about. Dave and I are frantically throwing our things together (check that, DAVE is frantically throwing things together, I'm all packed and taking time to blog) and trying to move out of Toyon. The dorm is empty and it's always sad to see another year end.

We have our final team meeting today before we set off on Sunday morning. I know this is a recurring theme, but it's hard to believe that after 6 months of meetings here we are at the end, ready to hit the road.

Anyways, I just wanted to post some photos that just came in from the Los Altos Rotary club. That was our first speaking event way back on May 28th. 

That's pretty much all I got for you right now. Give me two days and I'll have plenty to talk about ;-) See ya then!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

IRA Update, New Article, and Public Safety Announcement

June is upon us! That means we have less than two weeks until the start of the ride. The planning has been going on since I first contacted Face AIDS in the fall when I was spending a weekend in Dublin... I can barely believe it is actually happening!

Dave and I are currently sitting in a hotel room in Folsom, CA with our good friend and teammate Tyler Scott. The IRAs start on Thursday and we are all anxious to hit the water. We've been up here since Saturday rowing twice a day, but as all the East Coast teams arrived today its nice to see some fresh faces in boats we line up against.  We're rowing only once tomorrow and then we have our heat Thursday morning. 

The JV event works a little bit differently than other events. The winners of each of the three Thursday heats advance directly to the finals on Saturday. All other crews race in the three "reps" on Friday and the top boat advances. What this means is that you have to win a race to get the chance to race for the title. We're ranked #7 and are going to have to beat our seed to end up in the final. Wish us luck!

In other news, this morning I was greeted with a
 text from my father alerting me to the newspaper article on our ride that appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette. I had a 20+ minute interview with the reporter, Steve Foskett, the other day and he did a great job portraying our ride. You can check out the article at "Ride Against AIDS" by Steve Foskett. His mention of the IRA also got us a link on the coverage of IRAs at!

This leads me to my final point: a public service announcement. In most of
 our publicity photos and videos, Dave and I are not wearing helmets. We've received concerned feedback from our parents, friends, and other well-wishers. I would like to address this issue so as to avoid confusion.

Dave and I will certainly be wearing helmets this summer! We strongly believe in bike safety and try to take steps that will promote safety in daily riding. The reason we were photographed and filmed without helmets was purely for publicity's sake. We wanted our faces to be prominently featured in our materials so as to personalize our ride. In retrospect this was a poor decision as the magnitude of the ride speaks for itself: we don't need our faces to publicize it. All media materials were produced around the Stanford campus and we felt too comfortable with our circumstances and felt that a few minutes on a bike without a helmet would be ok. This was an incorrect assumption. 

So I would like to offer an apology to those who were offended or concerned with our lack of helmets. Not wearing a helmet sends the wrong message to people that we are trying to reach. Even for short rides, such as a 5-minute photo shoot, helmets are important to promote the general safety of riders and project a positive message regarding the use of helmets. We sincerely hope this apology will be accepted and we will make a concentrated effort to ensure that any future photos of us us in motion on our bikes will feature us wearing helmets.

Thanks for reading, this has been a long update. I've got to get to writing a paper before heading to bed. Thanks for following, and make sure to check on Saturday to find out how we did!